PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — How utterly delicious this is going to be.
Lee Westwood versus Bryson DeChambeau II will be the main event Sunday in the Players Championship final round at TPC Sawgrass.
Classic old school versus new school.
It comes exactly a week removed from their dueling in the final pairing of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, where the 27-year-old long-bombing DeChambeau outlasted the 47-year-old Westwood to win by one shot.
Given how compelling their showdown was a week ago, with the tournament decided on the 72nd hole, the PGA Tour could not have asked for a better final-round final pairing than DeChambeau and Westwood on Sunday.
Westwood, who shot 68 on Saturday to get to 13-under, will take a two-shot lead over DeChambeau into Sunday. Justin Thomas, who posted an 8-under 64, and Doug Ghim are both three shots back at 10-under.
Jon Rahm, Paul Casey and Brian Harman are 9-under. First-round leader Sergio Garcia, Chris Kirk and Matthew Fitzpatrick are 8-under.
All eyes, though, will be on that Westwood-DeChambeau pairing.
“It’s like Round Two, the Rematch,’’ Westwood said. “I enjoyed last Sunday and I’m going to enjoy this Sunday. I enjoy playing with him. I enjoy his company and his caddie’s company.’’
Westwood, who has 44 career professional victories worldwide, including 25 on the European Tour and two on the PGA Tour, said a win Sunday “undoubtedly’’ would be the most significant of his career.
“It would be the biggest tournament I’ve ever won,’’ he said.
“This is a chance that I’ve wanted my entire life,’’ DeChambeau said. “Growing up watching the Players, and finally having this opportunity is going to be something special.’’
A fascinating dynamic to this rematch is the golf course. Sawgrass requires much more strategy, while Bay Hill is more of a bomber’s paradise. DeChambeau, who hits it longer than anyone in the game, is forced to dial it back on a lot of holes at the stadium course.
“I suppose if you sat Bryson down here and you asked him which golf course would suit him more, he’d probably say Bay Hill,’’ Westwood said. “You can open your shoulders a little bit more around Bay Hill [and hit it long] than you can around here. This place is a little bit more strategic. But credit to Bryson. You wouldn’t associate this golf course with his style of play, and he’s up there. It shows he can adapt his game.’’
Westwood said he has “always felt that [Sawgrass] suits’’ his game.
“I wouldn’t say it doesn’t suit Bryson. It just doesn’t suit him as much as last week did,’’ Westwood said. “I don’t think I have any advantages. We’ll see [Sunday] what my advantages are, if I can apply myself properly. The advantage I have right now is the two shots.’’
Westwood warned that he and DeChambeau should be well aware that Sunday is “definitely not a two-horse race’’ and a simple match-play scenario involving only the two of them.
“This is one of the toughest golf courses to front-run on,’’ he said. “It’s easy to lose your mind out there and lose perspective and the situation get out of control on yourself. People can come from behind. You saw Justin Thomas shoot a low round [Saturday], came from 2-under to 10-under.’’
DeChambeau, who had an up-close look at Westwood and his unflappable guile last Sunday, credited Westwood’s girlfriend and caddie, Helen Storey, a driving force behind his success.
“She’s keeping him steady and level-headed and she’s a rock,’’ he said. “[She] keeps his mind focused on the right things and she’s been awesome for him. That’s one of his secret weapons, I think.’’
Westwood did not disagree.
“At my stage of my career, there’s not a lot a caddie can tell me, but obviously Helen gets me in a fantastic mood out there, and psychologically she can help me and say the things that I need to hear,’’ he said. “She helps me in that aspect an immeasurable amount.’’
DeChambeau called Westwood “Mr. Consistency,’’ adding: “His driving is impeccable, his iron play is impeccable and he makes putts when he needs to. Fortunately for me last week I was able to get the job done, and I think [Sunday] is going to be an incredible battle.’’